At a time when so many of the best games excel primarily as exercising in immersive world-building, you would think that more major publishers would be trying to port games into virtual reality. Fallout 4 VR, one of the few ports coming to VR, gives us some insight into what’s holding back the tidal wave of VR adaptations: It just isn’t as fun as playing Fallout 4 the old-fashioned way.

Make no mistake, Fallout 4 VR is amazing on a conceptual level. The demo we played suggests that Bethesda will make good on its audacious plan to bring one of the largest, most intricate RPGs to VR in full. For fans who have played the game, and are obsessed with the Fallout series and its post-apocalyptic society, the game offers the opportunity to look around — see and feel — like you’re there in that visceral way that conventional games cannot convey.


In my demo, I looked around Concord city hall, and got the sense that it was once a grand structure, by virtue of its size. I peered up, genuinely frightened, as a deathclaw got right up in my face and tried to slash me to ribbons. I was grossed out by bloodbugs (more than usual) when they flew off a corpse lying in the road. It is impossible to deny that you feel closer to the Commonwealth while playing in VR.

Unfortunately, everything that’s fun and interesting about Fallout 4 VR is experiential. Playing the game is kind of a pain. Playing on an HTC Vive, we had our PIP-Boy strapped to left arm, and could raise it up, look at the screen, and select options using the left controller. When you aren’t using the Pip-Boy, you also move using the left controller’s d-pad. Clicking the right d-pad allows you to access a quick-select item wheel, and pressing the right trigger fires your equipped weapon.

The right applications menu button (the one above the d-pad) turns on VATS. Like every other modern Fallout, VATS turns the world a slight shade of green, makes everyone move in slow motion, and highlights body parts on your enemies. Unlike non-VR games, you still have to aim in VATS; it just makes it easier. You can also teleport a short distance in VATS, which is helpful to get out of jams, because turning and running in VR can be both unwieldy and potentially nausea-inducing. Bethesda mentioned that you can play Fallout 4 VR using only teleportation for movement, but the teleport radius is not as far as, say, Doom VFR, so it isn’t necessarily effective for getting around.

In a casual demo setting, the controls were manageable, but it would be very hard to get around and survive the commonwealth this way. Moving in VR using a d-pad is a risky proposition. Even if it doesn’t automatically make you sick, the experience is physically taxing. You won’t want to roam and explore for long stretches, or even complete long missions.

Selecting new weapons and items on the weapon wheel is easy, but inventory management on the Pip-Boy is not. Using contextual menus, such as the list of items you look at every time you loot a locker or a corpse, can be difficult to navigate and keep open. It’s frustrating enough that I might forgo most of the looting in the game, if I played longer. That’s fine, in theory, until you run of bullets or stimpaks, and die.

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